“71 lighthouses have been identified in India which will be developed as tourist spots” Rajan Bahadur

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Businessfortnight had an interview with Mr Rajan Bahadur, CEO, Tourism and Hospitality Skill Council. Rajan Bahadur expressing his views on travel, pandemic situation, tourism and recent developments of THSC and government in uplifting tourism and hospitality sector told us about the measures should we take before we plan our travel. Talking about cultural heritage and international tourism in pandemic situations he also threw light on tourism spots to be made by the Indian Government.

Here is full insight to an interview taken by business reporter Akhil Gore

  1. What are the measures we have to take before we make any travel plan in pandemic?

– During the pandemic, travel requires precautions and care. It is best to check the guidelines for the ports of travel and intended destinations to prepare. Governments and industry are coordinating closely on standards and measures to enable safe, stress-free passage for travellers considering hygiene, testing, vaccination and other protocols.

  1. Till what time international tourism will be back to normal?

Tough to say what is ‘normal’ now! However, travel is picking up and we are hoping that traveller traffic will pick up. With extensive coordination between governments and industry to establish safety standards and protocols, especially related to hygiene and contactless touchpoints, we hope to see some relaxations. It is tough to quote an exact time period given there are many other factors to consider, but skilling the travel and tourism workforce to be better prepared is a key ingredient in achieving this sooner.

  1. How can third wave influence hospitality sector, and what are the precautions taken by government.

The Hospitality sector is no stranger to tough times. It has demonstrated incredible resilience in the past in times of strife and emerged stronger. At Tourism and Hospitality Skill Council (THSC), we are constantly engaging with the government and the industry to bridge the gap in terms of new requirements, particularly in terms of the workforce. Based on the guidelines developed by the authorities and the industry’s will to adapt, we have been and continue to work on new skill development initiatives in light of the changing times. Our hope is that along with the many tangible changes that the industry will need to embrace, we can do our part to help build more resilience in business models by equipping the workforce with the necessary skills to operate in the times of a pandemic. Technology and multiskilled training has a big role to play in this for the hospitality sector.

  1. In first quarter, the hospitality sector has shown a positive growth, what growth is expected in last quarter, as third wave is expected to reach.
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With the adoption of new technologies, new skilling initiatives, we are confident that our industry’s youth and workforce will be even better prepared for eventualities. Operating models are already adapting to changing expectations of consumers and travellers and with smooth adoption by the industry, we expect that the hospitality sector will also emerge stronger. While a third wave, could possibly have an adverse impact, the resilience and preparedness is what will determine growth and numbers. This is the time for industry leaders in hospitality sector to invest resources in training and skilling of their teams, to build strength into their operations and be ready for any external shocks.

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  1. As India has a lot of ancient heritage sites, in what manner tourism industry is trying to promote tourism to these places.

India is indeed a place of vast heritage and cultural value and this is a big point of attraction to travellers across the world. Given the dip in international tourism, the industry has certainly looked inward to increase its traffic. Buoyed by campaigns initiated by the honourable Prime Minister and the Indian government such as “Vocal for Local” and “Dekho Apna Desh”, the industry is preparing to welcome more domestic tourists. We are seeing immense interest in travel to heritage sites and Indian cultural attractions. The tourism industry is trying to preserve the heritage of the country while making it more accessible and visible to Indian and global travellers.

  1.  What are recent development taken by the hospitality sector to remain safe for pandemic.
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The hospitality sector is developing standards and protocols in line with expert guidance for a safe and stress-free experience. More frequent sanitisation, contactless check-in, digital menus, pre-packed and sealed meals, masking and social distancing for queues are just some of the measures embraced, For instance, hotels have made sure to sanitize their rooms and facilities more often and communicate the same to guests as well. Many businesses are encouraging their staff to get fully vaccinated and also facilitating camps to enable the same. Technology and digitisation is being used in a big way to affect many of these changes and adoption of new skills and standards is key.

  1. What are the measures taken by tourism industry to uplift cultural heritage?

The tourism industry has been hit by the pandemic, but it is working to embrace changes and opportunities. Industry partners are approaching us to upskill their workforce so it can be better prepared to operate under changing conditions and new demands from travellers. At THSC, we are working with the government to effectively develop and implement guidelines/SOPs for safe operations of tourist sites, training tourism professionals in these new approaches and facilitate recovery. India is a land of vast geographical and cultural diversity and this can be a true strength in aiding demand. Along with measures undertaken by the government, the industry is also playing its part in highlighting attractive tourist sites to domestic travellers.

Air bubble agreements with neighbouring South Asian countries will also help open up opportunities for international tourism to recover. GoI has also looked at newer ideas such as investing in development of newer points of interest. For instance, 71 lighthouses have been identified in India which will be developed as tourist spots. The lighthouses will feature museums, amphitheatres, open air theatres, cafeterias, children’s parks, eco-friendly cottages and landscaping according to its capacity. With the right impetus, many cultural sites can be improved, refurbished and ready as iconic, must-visit points once international travel is easier, putting us on the world map like never before.

  1. Development and protection of nature has always been a debate, can you please throw light on how we can promote our natural beauty without harming our environment.
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Alongside historical sites, our rich biodiversity is a huge advantage for us, from a cultural and tourism perspective. Wildlife sanctuaries, national parks can become attractions for travellers and we will hopefully see growth in traveller footfalls to such places. The industry is and should embrace practices that help preserve this natural worth without harming the environment. With the support of responsible tourists and civic sense, I am sure we can take steps in the right direction. Don’t litter the places you visit, use less artificial packaging, respect the natural bodies you interact with at tourist sites be it rivers, forests, mountains or any location you go to.

BY – AKHIL GORE